A Girl's Guide to Santorini in Off-Season

february 13, 2018

Santorini - It’s one of those places that looks completely magical in the travel brochures, but somehow exceeds this beauty and all your expectations upon arrival with its own true essence of amour. The romance of the island enchants visitors as we can’t help but fall in love with its many charms. To experience Santorini, one must get lost in twisting, white-walled paths, which inevitably give way to stunning caldera and ocean views. Appreciate the rhythmic click-clack of the donkeys traversing endless stairs and the soft chorus of meows from the plump alley cats.  Rejuvenate in fresh air, damp and cool with the seabreeze. Dazzle your eyes with the island colors, bright and confident. Quench and nourish with crisp, acidic wines and fresh, buttery seafare.  Befriend the locals and allow them to share the decadence of their home. Santorini is a place to share the love; share the view; share the bottle; share the wonder.

A note on off-season: During the winter months, November-March, some activities and many restaurants on the island are off limits. Generally, it is too cold to swim, however most other activities are fair game (see below). I visited in January and temperatures ranged from 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit. It rained two of the three days, but only for an hour or so, and only in the mornings before I even left the hotel. A majority of restaurants and bars close seasonally, however there are still plenty of options. Rest assured, you will not go hungry or thirsty. Additionally, you will never have to wait for a seat and will likely get one of the best tables in the house - score! My best advice before venturing to any sight or restaurant is to call ahead - do not trust Google! Hours are often limited or not listed correctly. Call to avoid disappointment. And speak to your hotel concierge or host to get the best recommendations based on what’s open.

sEE // Do

 

  • Watch the sunset in Oia. Somehow this corner of the Earth becomes even more gorgeous as the pinkish-hues of the Mediterranean sun sets on the blue domes and white-washed exteriors of Santorini. There are endless view points to post up and enjoy the sunset, calderas, neighboring islands, and the charming village.

 

  • Hike from Fira to Oia. The trek takes about two and half hours, but is not too strenuous. The path goes along the coast, making for lovely outlooks. You can hike back or take the bus.

 

  • Visiting the Red Beach is like swimming on Mars. Although in the winter months, it’s a bit too chilly for a dip, it’s still worth making the short walk over to check out the ominous red cliffs overlooking the volcanic sand and crashing waves below. It’s walking distance from the Akrotiri ruins and bus stop.

 

  • The Ancient Akrotiri Civilization, known as the Greek Pompeii, was preserved by volcanic ash for thousands of years. Dating back to 1627 B.C., this Minoan Bronze Age settlement is monumental in its modern existence as displayed in the walk-through museum.

 

  • The Museum of Prehistoric Thira brings Akrotiri full circle as the exhibits showcase many of the artifacts found in the ruins, so visitors can get a closer look at ancient life and art.

  • Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum, located near the center of the island in an underground cave, offers a historical and regional perspective of the famous Santorini vineyards and grape varietals. The self-guided audio tour ends with a taste of four wines.

 

  • Atlantis Books (Oia) is the cutest little cave bookstore you ever did see. They sell books in every language, specializing in those with Greek cultural themes. Also, you can rent a cat here, if you’re into those sorts of gimmicks.

 

  • Santo Winery, located on a cliff between Fira and Akrotiri, is the largest commercial winery on the island. They offer tastings, tours, and sweeping views of the coastline.

EAT // DRINK

 

  • Naoussa (Fira) serves traditional Greek cuisine and overlooks the city and sea - a nice lunch spot.

 

  • PK Cocktail Bar (Fira), the first bar of its kind on the island, serves coffee by day and the harder stuff come nightfall. The prime location and views will keep you there for a second cappuccino (or cocktail).

 

  • Pelican Kippos (Fira) is a garden oasis. This restaurant has a diverse menu to please all tastes. The loungey seats and greenery serve as a nice respite after drinking in all those blue and white sea and town views while sightseeing all day.

 

  • Lotza (Oia) is a nice bar and restaurant to post up while watching the sunset.

  • Roka (Oia) is off the beaten path. Where it lacks the ever-popular landscape views, this restaurant makes up for its absence of scenery by serving up some of the most authentic and delicious cuisine on the island.

 

  • The Dolphins makes for a nice bit of refueling in between the magnificent Red Beach outlook and Akrotiri Museum. Enjoy the seafront location with a glass of white and the local fava bean specialty.

Getting there // getting around

If you have the means, renting a car or even hiring a private driver, is the best option for getting around the island. While Uber is unavailable, taxis are easily reached by phone. As a solo traveler, I found the bus system to be relatively sufficient; although, the timetables are limited in the winter period, so you really have to plan ahead.


I highly recommend staying in Fira, as it is in the center of the inner-coast on this crescent-shaped island. This makes it easy to get to all the towns, beaches, and other attractions. Additionally, if you are venturing without car, Fira is incredibly convenient as all the buses going to other regions in the island begin in Fira - meaning the routes are not cyclical through the island, you must always begin in Fira. The hotel I stayed in, Santorini Reflections Volcano, was very central and offered one of the best views of Santorini. Oia is a little more out of the way, but is definitely one of the most scenic areas of the island.